U.S. sled hockey team ready to defend Paralympic gold

By Jamie M. Blanchard | Feb. 07, 2014, 6 p.m. (ET)
The 2010 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team won the gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games
The 2010 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, including Steve Cash (bottom center), won gold at the Paralympic Winter Games.

With one month until the start of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team is preparing for a run at history. No team has ever defended a Paralympic sled hockey title.

“We want to have that confidence that we can win another gold medal,” said goaltender Steve Cash. “We want to come in thinking that we’re going to win every game. But we’re really just focused on the future, one step at a time. You can’t look back on history and expect to repeat it. Our eyes are just on the prize in Sochi right now. If we can be that first team, and go down in the record books, that would be great, but we’re not thinking about history. Right now, we’re just focused on getting that gold medal when we get there.”

Eight players return from the 2010 U.S. squad that captured the gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. The list includes Cash, who was named the top goaltender of the 2010 Games after not allowing a single goal in five games, and Taylor Chace, who was named the best defenseman in Vancouver. Additional Paralympic veterans include defensemen Nikko Landeros, Josh Pauls and Andy Yohe; and forwards Taylor Lipsett, Adam Page and Greg Shaw. Cash, Chace, Lipsett and Yohe also earned bronze medals at the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino, Italy.

“We still have some of the same core as we did in 2010,” Cash said. “But we also have a lot of younger guys on the team. Not only are they younger but they’re a lot more talented than what I’ve seen in the past. When guys are that age, usually it takes them a little bit longer to develop but I have a lot of confidence in our younger guys. I feel like we have a more well-rounded team and at the same time, I feel like we’re also a lot closer. We’re more cohesive as a group. Obviously, you want that on and off the ice. I feel like I am more confident coming into these Games with the team that I have as opposed to 2010.”

Two players, Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal, are high school students, while captain Yohe is the most seasoned player at age 35. Page, who has been on the national team since the 2007-08 season, views the mix of old and new players as an advantage for Team USA on their trek toward history. 

“We have a lot of leadership but we also have a lot of youth,” Page said. “But I don’t view the youth as a negative. Every one of us has the speed and skills necessary to win a gold medal.”

U.S. Paralympic Team nominees have been training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., in preparation for the Games. Normally, only three or four team members at most would share the ice at rinks across the country.  

“It has been great for us to have this time together before Sochi,” Cash said.

His fellow goaltender Jen Lee, a U.S. Army sergeant, added that the practices have given the team confidence.

“To be honest, our chins are very high,” Lee said. “We have the speed, we have the strength. We have the veterans from Vancouver who know how to win and all the young guys who want to win. In the end, the only way we’ll lose in Sochi is by losing to ourselves. We have to just do our thing. I think if we go in there and do what we can do, we can come out with gold.”

The Paralympic Winter Games are March 7-16 in Sochi, Russia.